Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Review: This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I enjoyed The Great Gatsby so much that I always wanted to read more from F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I found out that this was his most successful book during his lifetime and the reason he became well known, I thought this would be a good next choice.

This Side of Paradise is the gradual disillusionment story of Amory Blaine, a young socialite of the early 1900s. He grows up with money and privilege at the end of the Victorian era, and goes on to Princeton where he starts fancying himself a great mind and he tries his hand at poetry and writing. His plans are changed when World War I begins and he serves for 2 years. When he returns, his family fortune is almost gone, and he gets a job writing copy for an advertising agency. Eventually he quits that job, deeming it unworthy of his great mind. He has several "love affairs" in his life, none as serious as Rosalind, who he looks at as his one true love, but she ends their relationship and marries a rich man instead because it's a more "practical" choice, breaking both their hearts. Amory then comes to believe in the argument for Socialism and how it should be up to the intelligent of the country to dictate laws and make things fair for all its citizens.

I'll be honest - I had a very hard time with this book. I began reading the physical book over a year ago and got about half way through before I just lost interest. The book is so filled with the slang of the social elite of the time that I barely understood the conversations, which frustrated me to no end. I finally started the book again, but the audiobook this time, in hopes of just getting it finished. Every single character is ridiculous and vain with no real concept of the world at large. All the characters think they are the most important thing in the universe, but they have no qualities or skills of value. I don't understand the relationship between Amory and Rosalind at all - there is no reason they should even like each other, yet it is treated like a major event in the book. Amory is completely unlikable, so I honestly didn't care what happened to him. Also the whole socialism concept at the end feels like it's a little out of left field. I see why Amory arrives at that opinion, having lived a life of no meaning except in his own mind, but it doesn't make any of his points valid in my eyes. Once I discovered that this book was Fitzgerald's autobiography, I started to rethink my value of his work. The book is written well, with some very beautiful and unique imagery as Fitzgerald is known for, but I am happy to be able to move on. I give this book 3 out of 4 stars.

All this being said, there was one specific quote I really loved:

"Youth is like having a big plate of candy. Sentimentalists think they want to be in the pure, simple state they were in before they ate the candy. They don't. They just want the fun of eating it all over again. The matron doesn't want to repeat her girlhood, she wants to repeat her honeymoon. I don't want to repeat my innocence. I want the pleasure of losing it again."

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